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“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe Essay

Superstition, for the Ibo people provides explanations to unexplained phenomena. For example, their idea of the obanje explains a woman who has the misfortune of many children repeatedly dying as infants. The Oracle gives the Ibo people a way to feel connected with the gods. For the Ibo, the Oracle functions as a way to explain events, as well as a way to predict the future. The Ibo people go to the Oracle for advice. In some other cultures, people pray to their deity to be guided in the right direction or to understand why things happen the way that they do. When the Ibo people want to know what they must do, in an unclear situation (such as how to handle Ikemefuna), they consult the oracle.

Most superstitions in the Ibo society are based on lack of knowledge about something. Superstition, in most societies, functions as an explanation for that which we cannot explain with science or logic. It also functions, sometimes, as a form of entertainment and as a way of promoting cultural unity. For example, the ritual involving “ancestral spirits” coming out to scare the women serves to promote togetherness in the community, to entertain, and to maintain religious and spiritual worship.

Another superstition that the Ibo hold is that if you answer, “yes?” to a call from outside, it could be an evil spirit tricking you. It seems to be that this superstition serves a main purpose of making the people wary.

Superstitions evolve from unanswered questions. In Ibo culture, things happened that the people did not understand. A woman would bear two children who looked alike. Perhaps the Ibo people were afraid of this occurrence and gradually began to believe that twins were evil. There is also the Ibo concept of the obanje, a wicked child who dies as an infant, only to reenter the mother’s womb repeatedly, causing the parents pain and strife. Without modern medical technology, how would people explain a particular woman’s children always dying as infants? The Ibo people turned to superstition and folklore.

It is not clear from where belief in the Oracle evolved. It seems, however, that this has been a tradition that has been passed on from many generations. A possible explanation would be that long ago one priest or priestess was receiving many questions from villagers. Unsure of what to do, this priest may have gone into a dark cave to be alone and to try to find the answers from the gods. Perhaps the priest felt a special spiritual energy while inside of the cave, and determined that this must have been a place where he could communicate with the gods. Although the actual origin may be different, many superstitions evolve from this similar type of curiosity and searching for truth.

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